Home Run Derby On Aircraft Carrier Big Draw For Power Hitters

Bobby Bradley (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Bobby Bradley (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Bobby Bradley has hit home runs in many different locales in his baseball career, from the South in his days as a Mississippi prep star to the American southwest in the Arizona League in his pro debut to now the Eastern seaboard in the Carolina League.

The Indians first baseman will get a chance to add another unique location to his home run register next Monday: On an aircraft carrier.

When: Monday, June 20, 5 p.m. PST
Where: On the deck of the USS Midway, San Diego
Participants: California League—Travis Demeritte (High Desert), Chris Shaw (San Jose), Dawel Lugo (Visalia), Kyle Petty (Bakersfield). Carolina League—Bobby Bradley (Lynchburg), Drew Ward (Potomac), Yu-Cheng Chang (Lynchburg), TBD
Format: Single-elimination, head-to-head, three rounds. Each player gets 15 swings per round
1. Carolina vs. Carolina
2. Carolina vs. Carolina
3. California vs. California
4. California vs. California
5. Winner of #1 Carolina vs. Winner of #2 Carolina
6.Winner of #3 California vs. Winner of #4 California
7. Winner of Carolina bracket vs. Winner of California bracket

Bradley, the No. 93 prospect in the BA Top 100, was one of seven players announced this week as participants in the inaugural Midway Classic Home Run Contest on the deck of the USS Midway, a Naval aircraft carrier commissioned at the end of World War II and now anchored in San Diego.

Bradley and Co. will get a chance to showcase their power by hitting “home runs" into the Pacific Ocean off the carrier. Home plate will be located 243 feet from the bow of the ship, and buoys placed in the harbor will signify the home run barrier.

The contest serves as the home run derby for the 20th Carolina-California League all-star game, which will be played the following day in Lake Elsinore, Calif., home of the Padres high Class-A affiliate.

“When I heard what it was, being on the aircraft carrier, I was extremely ecstatic about getting picked," Bradley said. “It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Bradley earned the derby spot by leading the Carolina League with 15 home runs for Lynchburg entering Thursday. He also is second in the league with a .509 slugging percentage.

Bradley will be joined on the Carolina League side by Nationals infielder Drew Ward (10 homers) from Potomac and fellow Indians prospect Yu-Cheng Chang (seven homers) from Lynchburg. The fourth participant from the Carolina League has yet to be announced.

Rangers infielder Travis Demeritte will lead the Cal League. Demeritte entered Thursday with a league-leading 16 home runs for High Desert. He will be joined by Giants first baseman Chris Shaw (13 homers) from San Jose, Diamondbacks shortstop Dawel Lugo (nine homers) from Visalia, and Mariners first baseman Kyle Petty (eight homers) from Bakersfield.

“You just always want to bring the title back to your side in anything you do," Bradley said. “For all of us, it's a chance to be a part of something pretty cool."

The idea of hosting the home run derby on the USS Midway was hatched by former Lake Elsinore Storm president and reigning BA Minor League Executive of the Year Dave Oster. Oster, who now runs a marketing and consulting business, was inspired in part by the 2012 South Atlantic League all-star home run derby—the first round of which was held on the USS Yorktown anchored just outside of Charleston, S.C.—but this will be the first time an entire derby, start to finish, will be held on a maritime vessel.

“We were just trying to think of something a little more creative and different, knowing that it was the 75th anniversary season of the Cal League and we wanted to do something special," said Oster, who spoke with Charleston RiverDogs executives Mike Veeck and Dave Echols about their experience. “(Storm general manager) Raj (Narayanan) and I were sitting around throwing around ideas and thought 'Hey, what if we go hit some balls out into the bay?' We both thought it was a good idea and reached out to the folks at the Midway and met with them and they thought it was a great idea, great exposure for both sides."

The festivities will include professional surfers Taylor Knox, Jeff Clark, and Scott Chandler taking swings in a pre-event home run derby of their own before the all-stars step up to the plate. Individuals on kayaks, paddleboards and will be retrieving the balls hit into the bay.

Simply put, it will be a home run experience unlike anything Bradley or the other minor league participants have ever had before.

“I've never hit a home run on a boat," Bradley said, chuckling. “It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm just grateful to have a chance to be a part of it."